What Kind of Vehicle Should My Family Buy?

Last summer, I told you about how my beloved 2008 Honda Accord was quickly moving towards clunker status. Since then, I’ve managed to eliminate the persistent, wrench shaped dashboard indicator light and the engine no longer revs too high when it idles. However, the pistons still make an annoying rattling sound when I give it gas and the lining of the roof continues to operate as a de facto barometer, sagging in the heat and humidity of the NC summer. There’s an ever-expanding crack in the windshield and it’s time for another NCDMV inspection which will likely uncover some new mechanical issue that can only be solved by trial and error. But the icing on the cake has to be the loud creaking noise coming from the driver side front suspension when I hit any kind of bump in the road. Imagine me driving over the unpaved parking lot at my kid’s swim meet last week, riding low in the driver’s seat as I wondered if the cacophonous creaking noise was audible from the outside, too.

I appreciate the virtues of driving an older car. And 15 years really isn’t that old for a Honda, but seriously, it’s time for something new. Unfortunately, buying a car isn’t that easy for me. The car buying process can be complex and opaque and it involves lots of questions. What kind of vehicle should I get? Should I buy or lease? If I choose to buy, should I get a new car or a used one? Is a used car safe enough for my kids? LE, XLE or LTD edition? How much can I afford? Should I pay cash or finance? Frankly, I try to shop around and make a really smart decision, but after I buy, I never really feel like I got a great deal.

The funny thing is, I usually enjoy tackling complex, personal finance questions. It’s literally my job! But something about the car buying process seems different. It could be the fact that I don’t know (or care) much about cars, or that buying a car feels like a big, expensive long-term decision to me. Or maybe I feel additional pressure as a financial advisor to make a wise decision. Whatever the cause, I believe that any time we’re faced with a large, emotional decision involving our personal finances we should seek outside counsel (even if you happen to be a financial advisor!)

I’m fortunate to work with a talented team of personal finance experts that I can go to when I’m in need of such counsel. But in this case, I fear my colleagues may be too biased to offer me the objective advice I’m seeking. After all, Jared’s family has a long, rich history of buying used cars and I suspect he’ll probably insist that I do the same. Ryan will likely pontificate on the virtues of minivan ownership and Ellen and Patty both drive new(er) Toyotas. I understand that we’re all biased in one way or another, but I thought it might be helpful to expand my counsel to a larger population of wise individuals. That’s when I realized that I have a wealth of wisdom and knowledge available to me in form of you, our faithful readers.

Assuming you’re willing to help, here’s some information about my family you might consider. Neither Crystal nor I have ever had a car payment. I paid cash for my Accord in 2008 and Crystal drove a very used Subaru Outback for the first few years of our marriage. In 2018, we sold the Subaru and paid $13k in cash for a friend’s 2010 Acura MDX. When we retire the Accord, I’ll inherit the MDX so we’re looking for a safe, reliable vehicle with plenty of space (but not too much) for the kids and their friends as we drive around Raleigh and head off on our regular camping trips. Fuel efficiency is important but not a huge factor because we typically only drive a few miles a day. We’ve been saving up for a car for a few years, so we have the cash set aside for our new ride.

I’ve created the poll below for fun, but also because I’m genuinely interested in your input. I can’t guarantee that I’ll heed the results, but they will certainly be helpful as Crystal and I navigate our next steps. Here’s your chance to be heard (only one vote per reader please.)

What Kind of Vehicle Should the Hall Family Buy?

I’ll keep you posted on the results of the poll in next week’s Friday Brief and on our car buying journey as it progresses. Thanks for your input!



Geoff Hall, CFP®
[email protected]

My wife, Crystal, and I have been married for 11 years and have two kids, Cooper (10) and Rhodes (8.) When I’m not spending time with them you might find me downtown serving at our church, pushing my limits during a mountain bike ride or having coffee with a friend in the Five Points area. I've been a financial advisor for 29 years and I'm thankful for the privilege of shepherding my family of clients through the ups and down of the markets, and of life for that matter.